skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 135756 Find in a Library
Title: Imprisonment vs. Death: Does Avoiding Schwarzschild's Paradox Lead to Sheleff's Dilemma?
Journal: Albany Law Review  Volume:54  Issue:3/4  Dated:(1990)  Pages:481-495
Author(s): H A Bedau
Date Published: 1990
Page Count: 15
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article proposes an alternative sanction to the death penalty and life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for persons convicted of first-degree murder.
Abstract: Sheleff's Dilemma is the fundamental deduction from the argument advanced by Leon Sheleff in his book "Ultimate Penalties." He argues that torture, a life sentence in prison, and the death penalty are all "ultimate penalties" that are indefensibly severe and morally objectionable. Since torture has long been excluded as a punishment in the United States, the policy dilemma posed by Sheleff's argument is what sanction to use in place of the death penalty and LWOP. Schwarzschild argues that all methods of capital punishment are unacceptably cruel, since they all have the intent of killing the prisoner. This paradox again poses Sheleff's Dilemma, i.e., what is to replace capital punishment and LWOP as the punishment for first-degree murder. This article proposes that the alternative is to sentence every person convicted of first-degree murder to life imprisonment. There would be no consideration for release, commutation, or reduction in sentence until 10 years of the sentence had been served. The prisoner would work in prison industries and receive appropriate compensation, from which half would be given to a fund for indemnification of dependents of murder victims. After the 10th year of imprisonment, the inmate would be considered annually for release, based upon convincing evidence of rehabilitation, a feasible job opportunity, support from community agencies, residency in a halfway house or comparable supervised setting for 1 year and parole supervision for an additional 4 years. Failure of a prisoner to secure release under the foregoing conditions would result in the prisoner serving a natural life sentence. 46 footnotes
Main Term(s): Abolishment of capital punishment
Index Term(s): Life sentences; Murderers
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.